Monday, 17 September 2018

My First Car - Framo Piccolo

I have paraphrased this from a German article in by author, Arne Niehörster, about people's first car stories. This story comes from East Germany in the 1950s, when cars were expensive and hard to come by. Young Joachim Stückrad of Husen, near Dresden was lucky to get his hands on an old Framo Piccolo, which he and his friends enjoyed (and ultimately trashed!) during the late 50s.

Heavenly journey! Joachim and his friends on the way to the Ore Mountains. The fifth in the group rode his bike and made it there first.

"We have never had much luck," Joachim Stückrad said to his loved ones after the first test drive of his Framo Piccolo (built in 1938) in Dresden in 1955. But he hoped that this would change with the purchase of this car. And indeed, for the graduate engineer from Husen the dream came true for 2000 Ostmark. Stückrad remembers rapturously: “The car was most beautiful in appearance, with its edged hood, which did not even open. Inside there was also nothing except the steering column. Looking towards the back there were air vents over the engine cover. Under the engine cover you could see straight through to the road”

"The engine was sitting under a small hump in the rear seat" reveals Stückrad. A 300 cubic centimeter DKW two-stroke engine delivered a neat seven horsepower. The best part was the starter - because it did not exist - at least not when Stückrad owned it. "The previous owner has lost the starter. However there was a kickstarter externally mounted beside the driver's door." If the car stalled at an intersection when driving solo there was nothing for it but work up a bit of sweat. But when driving with his girlfriend at the time it was “no problem. My sweetheart hopped out, took a couple of kicks on the kickstarter and off we went on our wild ride."

The Framo’s light weight presented unusual problems. ”We drove the Framo was to a student party and it was carried up the stairs to the cafeteria," said Stückrad recalls. Plop plop-plop - he drove it down the stairs again.

Vacation trips, however, were mostly one way journeys. "We often had to resort to other means of transport to get home." On a trip to the Saale dam, with a tent and folding boat, on a slope of almost five degrees the Framo slowed to walking pace. The girlfriend had to get out, then the speed picked up a little. Eventually Stückrad too had to hit the asphalt, with his car chugged alongside at full throttle, controlling the throttle through the open window. "Half pushed by me, she managed to reach the mountain," says Stückrad, which was steeper still; the steep, hard slopes of the Wilsdruffer mountain. This proved to be the last trip for Stückrads Framo, due to piston seizure.;art2576,320803

Sunday, 16 September 2018

1936 Framo Leiferwagen Prospectus

Jorge Rasmussen's Framo-Werkes had made its name manufacturing cheap tricycle delivery wagons. Following Rasmussen's sacking from Auto-Union in 1934, he turned his focus to Framo and initiated a series of budget car projects. These ultimately proved to be unsuccessful. Framo's tricycles were updated and a new series of four wheeled commercial vehicles were introduced. The four wheeled range was powered by a 500cc two cylinder DKW two-stroke engine, built under license. Framo offered a small sedan based on the same platform as their light truck. Few were sold however and in 1936, as part of the Schell rationalization program, Framo was instructed to cease all tricycle and personal vehicle production and were licensed only to produce their light truck.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Framo Piccolo reivew Motor und Sport 2 December 1934

Framo Piccolo Review, by J.F.

It is not unknown that the Volkswagen of tomorrow will have a motor of 1000cc or more and will be built exclusively as a four-seater. Today there are the different four-seaters and two-seaters, but there are also two-seater mini-cars, which are manufactured by Framo and Standard. One thing is certain: the future belongs to the four-wheel car!

If it becomes possible to build an effective and economical budget car and reduce its operating costs to around 5 to 7 pfennig per kilometre, there will hardly be any interest in the two-seater mini-car, whose limited offering will no longer be attractive for its cost.

But we are not there yet! The real small car of good quality still costs 2000 RM. If all operating costs, including depreciation and interest, are taken into account, this amounts to more than 10 pfennig per kilometre. This expense is too high for many, who must therefore choose a motorcycle or a mini-car that is much cheaper in purchase and operating costs. There have been numerous experimental constructions and hybrid designs available today, which demonstrate that many aspects of purchase price, operating costs, stability, road-holding, and driving comfort can be fully satisfied, to some degree.

It is apparent though that the auto industry has no great interest in developing the small car for the people, because the type of vehicle that can be sold for about 1500 Marks is hard to sell. There are many who would prefer to wait a little longer to save for a DKW or Opel or settle for a motorcycle.

At this moment there is increasing interest in an economical and robust small car that can be built for little more than 1000 Mark. This car must be three-seated, because the pure two-seater is only enough for a local shopper, the single man, and the loving couple. A three-seater or the four-seater makes more sense for the future even if the family is only two at the moment.

What is offered?

After this introductory critique, we provide a report for the small car, the Framo Piccolo, which is priced at 1295 RM for the two-seater convertible sedan. It is obvious that to reach this price, there are things, especially in terms of the bodywork and equipment, the hood for example, which have been sacrificed.

You have to ignore more than usual certain elements. The cheap upholstered seat is not as comfortable as a lounge chair and will probably not have a long service life. The simple, springy fabric-covered tubular steel chair is acceptable for a small car. It is also space-saving and easy to clean.

The Framo Piccolo is called a two-seater with two child seats. The child seats are extremely small and are located a bit too high, next to the engine. They would not be comfortable for travel over longer distances, so the car is really just a two-seater.

The exterior appearance of the car is nice. Rather than a false radiator grill, which the customer expects, the bonnet has a simple, smooth face. This looks better. The car has a convertible top so that it can be driven open. The driving characteristics of this small car are not bad at all. It has a modern chassis with a central tube frame, independent swinging front wheels on leaf springs and a rigid rear axle, which has also been leaf-sprung. As with similar small cars, power is provided by a fan cooled DKW single-cylinder engine, placed in front of the rear axle, although placement is somewhat cramped.

The drive from the gearbox to the rear wheels is done via an enclosed chain. The car’s handling is safe on the road and even in the country. Although the Framo Piccolo is comparatively light, you cannot ask too much from a 300cc engine. Initially, the performance of the car was inadequate and fuel consumption excessively high. By changing the gear ratios and installing a different carburetor (Framo B, Duse 45) has significantly improved performance and economy.

The Framo is easy to drive. Seating is comfortable as the car has now received two single seats, rather than the bench seat the car originally supplied. If you take a seat out a large space is available for luggage.

The noise of the engine is annoying in only the medium speed range. It would be better to have a water-cooled engine, as the water jacket provides a noise dampening effect. Unfortunately, that would again increase the price.

Performance and consumption

It is actually amazing that today a 300cc engine is capable of driving a four-wheeled, spacious two-seater car reasonably fast and efficiently. A few years ago that was inconceivable, but in the meantime the performance and capability of engines has been increased significantly.

Like all other DKW machines, the engine is built according to the principle of reversing scavenging with flat pistons. The advantages of the design are well known, the flat piston without the usual domed top, ensures a more uniform pressure distribution for better heat dissipation. By reversed scavenging the efficiency of the engine is improved; after every combustion stroke, the combustion chamber will be properly flushed out. The result is an increase in effective performance while reducing fuel consumption.

Measurements taken on the AVUS with two persons aboard showed the fuel consumption rate of 5 litres per 100 km at a speed of about 45 kmp/h. Afterwards, the car was trialed on a regular street driving course, with long straights and steep slopes. The car was partially driven at full throttle. Fuel consumption rises to 6.2 litres per 100 km in these conditions, which must necessarily be described as favourable. The same applies to the top speed of 60 kmp/h, with two people aboard.

The original article:

The Autocar, 9th January 1942. 
That 6 Horsepower Car by Montague Tombs

Framo Piccolo - Germany's Cheapest Car 1934

In October 1930, DKW’s managing director, Jorge Rasmussen, challenged his design team to develop a budget car in time for the April 1931 Berlin Motor Show. This was a significant technical challenge for the design team as the show was less than six months away. Nevertheless, they managed to deliver a true ‘little marvel’ in the revolutionary DKW F1, the world’s first front wheel drive production car. The new car was built around a simple ladder chassis and powered by a newly designed two cylinder two-stroke motor of 500cc capacity. The plywood and leatherette body was Spartan, but handsome, and at only 1700 Reichsmark, the car found an instant market.

The Little Wonder, the DKW F1 was the first in Auto-Union's long lineage of front wheel drive cars that continues today in Audi's range. It's worthwhile noting that the early cars only had a single door on the right hand side.

DKW’s motorcycle and small car range went on to become the bedrock of the Auto-Union conglomerate, comprising Audi, Horch, Wanderer and DKW. DKW alone provided 50% of the group’s sales and one third of its net profits, enabling the other, uneconomical brands to stay afloat through the hard times of the Great Depression. It therefore came as something of a shock to Rasmussen to find himself denied the managing directorship of Auto-Union that he felt was his by right. Open conflict ensured as the board increasingly froze him out of their decision making, until he was unceremoniously sacked in 1934.

As his relationship with the Auto-Union board deteriorated through 1933, Rasmussen initially retreated to DKW’s technical design bureau, however, even here he found himself up against Horch’s former design bureau chief, Willem Werner, who was in the process of consolidating each brand’s design bureau under his control. To escape the tensions at Auto-Union, Rasmussen turned to his attention to his non-Auto-Union businesses, including the Framo commercial vehicle company.

Framo had been founded by Rasmussen and two other partners to manufacture fittings for DKW motorcycles, such as seats, handlebars and brakes. In 1924 the company took possession of a stock of obsolete DKW Lomos scooter parts and used them to construct a simple delivery tricycle. There was a busy market for motorized delivery tricycles in Germany and soon Framo became a dedicated small commercial vehicle manufacturer. By 1932 Framo were a well-known brand competing successfully with the market leaders, Vidal and Sohn’s Tempo Werkes and Carl Borgward’s Goliath Werkes. Rasmussen had retained full ownership of Framo, excluding it from the Auto-Union merger and had placed his sons, Ove and Anton, in charge of the company.

Thwarted in his ambitions at DKW, Rasmussen initiated a budget car project at Framo in 1931. To avoid accusations of theft of DKW’s intellectual property, Framo’s new car would be a three wheeled “mini-car” targeting a market below that of even the F1. (Framo specialized in 3-wheel delivery vans and even produced 3 wheeled passenger cars). The new car was Spartan in the extreme. A 192cc DKW single cylinder, air-cooled stationary engine was mounted in the front, with chain drive to the front wheels. The chassis was a simple, hollow tube, which doubled as the exhaust. The front of the car was reminiscent of the DKW F1 with its metal (false) radiator grill and bonnet. The rest of the body was leatherette covered plywood. The passenger cabin was highly streamlined, which gave the car its name, the “stromer”, but it made for a very tight squeeze and the vision to the sides and rear was poor. At only 300 kgs the car was extremely light weight – but then it had to be given the tiny size of its engine. When the Stromer went on sale in 1932 much was made of its low maintenance and running costs and that it did not require a driver’s license or pay road tax. Nevertheless, the Stromer did not find the market Rasmussen hoped for, partly because the car’s price tag of RM1400 was quite steep for such a tiny vehicle. Only 360 Stromers were built before production stopped in 1935.

By 1933, Rasmussen was observing developments at Auto-Union from the sidelines as his relationship with the board irretrievably broke down. All sides in the dispute recognized that a final reckoning was not far away. Consequently, when Adolf Hitler opened the 1933 Berlin Auto Show with a speech calling on car manufacturers to build ‘the people’s car’, Rasmussen saw an opportunity to trump his former company’s dominance in the small car market.

When Hitler had called for ‘the cheap car’ in 1933, there was little consensus as to what that meant. DKW F2 was one of the cheapest cars in the market but this was still well outside the price range of the working masses. Opel’s all steel small car, the P-4, at 1650 Reichsmark was even further out of reach. Jozef Ganz, the motoring critic and mini-car enthusiast believed a true ‘people’s car’ could not be priced greater than RM1000, but his vision of a RM1000 car was little more than an improved cyclecar. To fulfil Hitler’s brief, Jorge Rasmussen would need to build a car that was cheaper than RM1400 but more credible than one of Ganz’ cyclecars.

Car manufacture in Europe was an expensive business. Almost no one mass produced vehicles and bodywork was still very much an artisanal trade of steel and wood, so cost cutting meant stripping the design back to absolute basics. The rear engine craze of the 1930s was a symptom of the need to simplify design. Transmitting power from a front-mounted engine to the rear wheels involved a transmission tunnel and differential. These were heavy items that cost energy efficiency. There were only two options to remedy this – front engine with front wheel drive, or rear engine with rear wheel drive. Front wheel drive involved some additional engineering to allow the wheels to turn without losing power, so rear mounting the engine was ultimately the simplest technical solution.

Hanomag had pioneered the return to a rear mounted engine in their 2HP Kommisbrot of 1928 and now engineers all across Germany followed suit. The resulting cars from Hansa, Standard and Bungartz were all very similar in concept, as was the Framo Piccolo. The Framo Piccolo was constructed of a traditional wood frame with plywood panels. Similar to the Big DKWs from the Spandau factory, the body was entirely self-supporting. The chassis, such as it was a single steel spar screwed into the plywood floor, with a cross-member for lateral support. There was only a single door, opening on the right-hand side. There was a traditional looking bonnet at the front, but it did not open. The space underneath was empty except for the steering shaft. Instrumentation was meagre – an ignition switch and a speedometer.

The car was powered by a DKW 300cc EL air-cooled stationary engine, of the type regularly used on Framo’s delivery tricycles. Air cooling was facilitated by a fan shroud, driven off the flywheel. The engine was mounted on the centreline in the rear, with enclosed chain drive to the rear axle. A petrol tank was mounted above the engine in the rear.

At only 3 metres long, the Piccolo lived up to its name. Coming as an open, soft top rather than enclosed cabriolet, the car felt larger than its competitors. It was slightly more practical as it was able to seat four (two adults and two children – or four very cramped adults). By comparison, Josef Ganz’ Standard Superior was practically a two-seater with little more than a luggage bench behind the driver’s seat. Sale price was 1295 Reichsmarks.

The Piccolo was unveiled at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show, along with the Standard Superior and the Hansa 400. The small car manufacturers all held high hopes due to Adolf Hitler’s speech the previous year. The new government had followed up Hitler’s words with actions, dropping road taxes and license conditions for light vehicles. They were to be sorely disappointed, however. On the first day of the show Adolf Hitler had toured the main pavilion, inspecting the displays of Germany’s premier auto makers. Prestige brands, such as Mercedes-Benz and Horch, showcased their latest sports limousines and race cars, but the sensation of the show was a foreign import. The Czechoslovakian Tatra company revealed their new rear-engine streamliner, the Tatra T77. The T77 was unlike anything else on show, instantly drawing Hitler’s attention. Although his entourage tried to hustle him along, Hitler stopped for an extended discussion with Tatra’s director of engineering, Hans Ledwinka. Despite his Czech name, Ledwinka was a fellow German speaker and Hitler conversed as easily with Ledwinka as he would his fellow Austro-Hungarian, Ferdinand Porsche.

The next day Hitler toured the secondary hall, where the smaller producers, motorcycle manufacturers and truck makers showcased their wares. Jorge Rasmussen was on hand to present the Piccolo to Hitler personally. A sign on the windshield of the car mirrored Hitler’s language of the previous year, declaring the Piccolo “the people’s car.” Hitler was not impressed with what he saw, and he dismissed the Piccolo with a comment that it “wasn’t half a grape.”

If any of the budget car makers thought Hitler would be satisfied with their response to his call to build a cheap car for the German people, they were soon disappointed. For the avoidance of any doubt, Hitler clearly articulated that he expected the German motoring industry to deliver a modern steel car, not a motorcycle-engined, plywood cyclecar or three-wheeler. By the end of the year the tax breaks for small vehicles that the companies were relying on were revoked. Small speculative players, such as Bungartz, a tractor maker, withdrew from the market, while the bigger players, such as Hansa, reverted to building standard cars.

Nevertheless, Rasmussen and Framo were not deterred. They had a viable budget car which found a small market. The international press, who may not have fully understood Hitler’s vision for the Volkswagen, assumed that the Piccolo, the cheapest car on sale at the Berlin Motor Show, was the promised Volkswagen. Many articles appeared in the motoring press discussing the small car’s merits.

Small numbers were sold in 1934 and 1935. The 1935 model abandoned the coal scuttle bonnet, replacing it with a rebranded DKW F2 false radiator grill. Amazingly, the company even offered a cheaper version, powered by a 200cc engine, which really must have struggled to move the little along. 737 Piccolos were sold by the time production stopped in 1935.

Rasmussen attempted two more budget cars after the Piccolo. The most promising was the handsome Framo Rebello, which featured the sporty looks of the Stromer on four wheels. The engine remained the 300cc DKW sourced two-stroke. Unfortunately, the car never went into series production due to the restrictions imposed by the Nazi Schell plan, which reorganized and regulated the German motoring industry.

The other car was the eponymous named ‘volkswagen’, which closely resembled the contemporary Austrian Steyr Baby. A single prototype was exhibited at the 1936 Berlin Motor Show but went no further.

Under the Schell plan Framo were restricted to manufacturing a single model of light commercial lorry, the V500. The lorry came in two versions, the V500 powered by a water cooled 500cc DKW two-stroke, and V501 powered by an air-cooked 500cc DKW engine. Both lorries were otherwise identical. Interestingly, the V501 air-cooled engine built by Framo under license from DKW would evolve into the Trabant 500cc engine.

Framo company history:
Standard Superior:
DKW history:
Origins of the Volkswagen:
Tatra streamliners:
Tatra vs Volkswagen lawsuit:

Video of a Framo Stromer in action

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

1934 Framo Stromer

Introducing the New Framo Stromer two seater car - the "Stromer."

"The Stromer is not a scaled-down vehicle with deteriorated performance. Framo's years of experience in tricycle development, including many experimental models undergoing years of testing on country roads were needed to create this perfect small car for the new era.

The Stromer, with its racy look, speed, convenience, and economy, is the perfect vehicle for the business man, the discriminating sportsman and the elegant lady. The car has impressively good handling characteristics, on curves, difficult road conditions and in the mountains."

"It is no exaggeration that the Framo Stromer is in every respect the best small car in the world and its characteristics have been secured by a number of foreign patents.

The car comes with options of a 200cc, 400cc or 600cc engine. There is a single chassis and body style for all models."

Monday, 10 September 2018

The History of Framo GmbH

The Framo company was originally founded as the Frankenberg Metal Works factory by DKW founder Jorge Rasmussen, and his business partners, Paul Figura and Richard Blau. Originally housed in a disused military barracks, the factory turned out metal fittings for DKW motorcycles and cars. In 1924 the factory began building simple tricycle rickshaws powered by a single-cylinder, air-cooled 150cc DKW motorcycle engine. It was a very conventional machine but orders began to flow.

Similar in construction and conception to dozens of other delivery trishaws, such as the Brennabor and Tempo. It was manufactured from surplus DKW motorcycle and Lomo scooter parts.

Framo TV300
In 1926 the company developed a new, more substantial transporterwagen, the TV300. Largely constructed of wood with a rear carrying tray, it was powered by a 300cc DKW stationary engine mounted atop the single front wheel with a two speed gearbox. It retained tiller steering. A variety of body styles and engine sizes were offered. By 1928 the Frankenburg plant had built 1000 tricycles and employed some 700 people.

The TV was originally sold for a short time as the DKW Transportwagen, but DKW management objected so the name was changed to DGW. By 1928 the company settled on the name Framo as a contraction of Frankenberg Metalwerkes.

Framo LT300
In 1930 the transporter was modernised with a simple wooden cab and a three speed gearbox. Designated the LT300, it was still fairly primitive and retained its old fashioned tiller steering.

Framo LTH300
1933 the transporter was completely modernised receiving a more powerful engine, three speed gearbox with reverse and a fully enclosed cab. The LTH 300 'Liechertransportwagen mit haube' (light transport truck with cab) closely resembled its contemporaries and rivals - Tempo and Goliath.

An early model LTH. Tempo and Goliath dominated the tricycle market in Germany with Framo coming up a distant third. Tricycles with engines under 400cc did not pay road tax or require a drivers license.

An LHT passenger wagen. Customers were always able to order passenger versions of the three wheeled commercial vehicles.

Framo LTG500

A 1939 prospectus for Framo dreirads. "As strong as a bull... in a class of its own."

And meanwhile, over at DKW....
In 1932, DKW merged with Horch, Wanderer and Audi to form Auto-Union. With DKW the largest manufacturer in the group and contributing one half of the group's profits, Rasmussen felt that the managing directorship should be his by right, but soon found himself frozen out by the other board members. The State Bank of Saxony, which held the purse strings, stacked the Auto-Union board with its own nominees and had Wanderer's director of sales, Baron Klaus Von Ouertzen, named managing director. Tensions between Rasmussen and the Auto Union board became increasingly tense until in December 1933 he was summarily sacked. Rasmussen was not prepared to go quietly and his campaign against Auto-Union in the press and in the corridors of power resulted in him recieving a substantial settlement of 1.3 million Reich Marks.

Although he never stopped hoping for an opportunity to buy back his beloved DKW, Rasmussen was determined to continue building passenger vehicles and he would do so through Framo, which was not included in the Auto-Union merger. While Framo continued building the commercial tricycles that were its bread and butter, he established a research and development department to work on his vehicle projects.  

Framo Stromer
Rasmussen's first project at Framo was the Stromer - a highly aerodynamic streamlined three-wheeled budget vehicle. Built around a simple tube chassis, which was hollow and doubled as the exhaust. The car was front wheel drive, powered by a 200cc air-cooled DKW motorcycle engine, driving through a three speed gearbox with reverse. Although powered by a very small engine, the car was extremely light at only 300 kilograms unloaded, which allowed it to reach 60 KPH. The streamlined bodywork was constructed of wood covered with leatherette. It was priced at 1460 RM, which was slightly cheaper than a contemporary DKW.

The Framo Stromer on display at the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. The car was sleek and sporty, but the retention of a very conventional looking bonnet and false radiator screen used up valuable space in what was a very small car.

"This is the new Framo 2 seater personal vehicle - the Stromer!  The Stomer makes its way - whether the road is good or bad - in sunshine, rain and snow, up mountains and down valleys, is economical on fuel, undemanding maintenance and does not need garaging."

Being a three wheeler with a small capacity engine meant owners needed neither a drivers license or pay road tax - an important selling point - but unfortunately the tiny two-seater did not sell well, with only 360 cars sold in three years. Even the car's exceptional performance in the 1933 endurance trials failed to boost sales.

In a 13 hour endurance trial on 2 June 1933 the Stomer covered some 8819 kilometres.

Stromers on the production line. A quick comparison with the production line photos from DKW's Zwickau factory (here- ) highlights Rasmussen's challenge at Framo - Framo simply wasn't big enough to challenge the established companies. In 1933 the Army reclaimed its barracks at Frankenberg, forcing Framo to relocate to new premises in Hainichen. The Army allowed Framo to move their production in stages over several years.

Framo Piccolo
Rasmussen's plans to get back into the passenger car market received a boost from an unexpected quarter when, at the opening of the 1933 Berlin Auto Show, the newly elected Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, called for an automotive revolution in Germany. The government would embark on an ambitious program of road building and the motoring industry was challenged to build a people's car or 'volkswagen' to get Germany moving. The volkswagen would be a car that every Germany worker could afford.

The heads of the auto industry however were aghast at the idea. Vehicle design, development and construction was time consuming and expensive, and nobody really wanted to budget vehicle as there was simply no profit in it. The industry as a whole began to delay and dissemble, hoping that the whole idea would fade away. But for Rasmussen, now very much an outsider, this was a great opportunity. Several years earlier Rasmussen had seized on the theme of the budget motor car when he and the DKW team had designed and built the DKW F1 in only six weeks in order to present it at the 1931 Berlin Auto Show. The radical, front-wheel drive little roadster merged simplicity in design with pleasing style and it proved to be DKW's ticket to automotive success.

The DKW F1 debuts at the 1931 Berlin Auto Show. When released it was the cheapest conventional car on the German market and was many German families first experience of motoring. Despite its simplicity and budget price the car had several radically new features, not least being its front-wheel drive - the first in any production vehicle. It spawned a long lineage of front-wheel drive cars leading all the way to our modern Audi and Volkswagen cars.

Rasmussen pared the F1 design concept back to produce a real budget 'volkswagen.' The Framo Piccolo was a small four-wheeled car with a steel tube chassis and independent suspension. The single cylinder, 200cc two-stroke, air-cooled DKW engine was mounted in the rear, just ahead of the rear axle - the cutting edge of automotive design according to Josef Ganz of Motor Kritik. Final drive to the rear wheels was via chain through a three-speed gearbox with reverse.

It was inevitable perhaps that the Framo Piccolo resembled contemporary DKWs, given their common origin. The original model featured a coal scuttle bonnet as there was no radiator. The plaque trumpets "no drivers license necessary!"

Rasmussen presents the Framo Piccolo to Adolf Hitler at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show. Note that to save costs the car had no left hand door, only a single door opening on the right. Hitler was not impressed, describing the car as "not half a grape." Nevertheless, the international press saw the Piccolo as the embodiment of Hitler's Volkswagen.  As The Daily News, Perth, Western Australia reported, '"Every German should have a car," declared the Chancellor (Herr Hitler) in opening the Berlin Motor Show, a feature of which was a four-seater Framo car costing 60 pounds.' 10 March 1934.

Unfortunately for the German auto industry Adolf Hitler was deadly serious about his 'volkswagen' project and for the avoidance of any doubt about his requirements, he spelt them out explicitly at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show. The new car was to be of modern steel construction, should seat four adults comfortably, have a top speed of 100 kilometres per hour, and would cost no more than a 1000RM. The German people would not make do with second-rate baby cars, three-wheelers, and motorcycle engined plywood and leather contraptions. Rasmussen's Piccolo, which was priced at 1295RM, was summarily dismissed from the running.

Nevertheless, the Piccolo was a viable small car and did sell, if only in small numbers. Framo responded to market demand by increasing the size of the car, its engine, and even added a second door! The flat, coal scuttle bonnet was replaced by a false radiator grill taken from the contemporary DKW F2. 737 were sold before production ceased in 1935.

"At last, the long awaited people's car, the Framo Piccolo. 1275RM for a four-seater (seating two adults and two children). Each affordable!"

Framo Rebell
It was clear that the Piccolo was not the car that would make Framo's fortune and so work began on a totally new car project. But the Piccolo and Stromer designs were not simply abandoned. A Stromer inspired body was mounted on an extended Piccolo chassis and fitted with a larger motor. The new Rebell was a handsome, sporty, yet relatively low cost car. Unlike it's predecessors it was a conventional design with front wheel drive and Rasmussen's trademark two-stroke air cooled engine. Unfortunately this promising project did not progress past prototype stage.

Design study of the Rebell. As with other Framo vehicles (and contemporary DKWs) the bodywork was plywood covered with leatherette for weather protection. The seats were cloth on metal frame.

What could have been? The handsome Framo Rebell prototype driven by Jorge Rasmussen's son, Hans, now CEO of the company. Despite its promise, Framo was simply too small a company to build multiple vehicle lines at the same time, and cancelled the project.  Besides, there was another promising project in the wings.

The Rebell outside Motor Kritik's office. Josef Ganz's Tatra 11 is in the background.

Framo Volkswagen

After the debacle at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show, Rasmussen was determined not to make the same mistake again and threw the company's best and brightest into the new 'volkswagen' project. Jorge's son, Hans, and chief engineer Fritz Goritz worked on a completely new design. Mounted on a narrow track, ladder chassis (Goritz patent) and powered by a 500cc 18 horsepower DKW two-cylinder two-stroke engine with water cooling, the car featured a handsome, modern looking wood and steel body.

The stakes were very high as Hitler's patience with the German automotive industry had finally run out - in spectacular fashion. In a fiery speech at the 1936 Berlin Auto Show Adolf Hitler raged against car industry for their inability deliver "the cheap car" and threatened to nationalise the entire industry. It was apparent to everyone that the volkswagen would be a nationalised project, which meant an enormous opportunity for the designer who could deliver the goods.

While his son and Goritz were working on the car, Jorge was working the political angle. He traveled to the United States with Ferdinand Porsche to study the US automotive industry and learn the lessons of mass production. Rasmussen was well aware that Porsche was working on his own 'volkswagen' project and had the Fuhrer's ear. He was also aware that Porsche's project was being held back by technical challenges with the rear engine layout. Rasmussen felt certain that if he could get his car presented first, he would be in with a chance. At the 1936 Berlin Auto Show, Rasmussen personally presented the car to Hitler. Hitler however showed no enthusiasm and would later openly declare his support for the Porsche project. It seems that Hitler had greater rapport with fellow Bohemian Porsche, than with the Danish Rasmussen.

All plans and details of the Framo Volkswagen have since been lost. Only a handful of photographs of the single prototype remain.

Framo-Goritz Streamliner
Although the Framo volkswagen proved a failure Hans Rasmussen and Fritz Goritz continued experimenting on the design until 1938. Taking the narrow track chassis and fitting it with tandem seats and a torpedo shaped body to produce a totally space-age vehicle.

Hans and Jorge Rasmussen drive the Framo-Goritz streamliner chassis. Although space age in appearance it remained a budget car. The car's single cylinder, 200cc water cooled two-stroke engine is clearly visible in the photo.

Several versions of the car were built and presented to the Government for evaluation, much to their annoyance. The automobile association demonstrated the car's impracticality by assigning their tallest SS test driver to drive the car in a 12 hour endurance test. Needless to say the driver's report was less than complimentary. In 1938 the Schell Plan put a stop to all further passenger car development at Framo.

Framo commercials
While Rasmussen was unsuccessfully pursing his passenger car dreams, Framo continued manufacturing commercial vehicles. In 1934 Framo released its first four wheeled commercial, the HT600. Powered by an 18 horsepower DKW two-cylinder, water-cooled, two-stroke engine, it was capable of carrying a payload of almost a ton. 1200 were built between 1934 and 1937.

A larger version, the HT1200 was also built, powered by a 1.2 litre Ford four-stroke engine. Although capable of carrying a larger payload, it was more expensive and consequently less popular. Only 250 were built.

Framo V500 & V501
In 1938 the Nazi's implemented a comprehensive rationalisation of the automotive industry. The Schell Plan, named after its author Colonel Adolf Schell, determined which company could produce what. Framo's tricycle and passenger car production was stopped and they were permitted only to produce their new V500 and V501 light truck. Powered by a 500cc DKW two-cylinder, two-stroke engine, in either air-cooled or water-cooled versions. Almost 6000 were built during the war years and served with the Wehrmacht in all theatres.

By the time the war turned against Germany Jorge Rasmussen was living in retirement on his estate in Sacrow. When the Eastern Front collapsed in 1945, he and his family fled west, eventually settling in Flensberg on the Danish border, where the remnants of the Nazi government had established its ghost government. After the war he retired to Denmark.

Framo's Hainichen factories escaped war damage but was systematically stripped by the Soviet engineering corps. Every single item of value, right down to door frames and light switches, were removed, packaged up and shipped off to the USSR. Nevertheless, the factory struggled back into existence building hand carts, wheel barrows and horse drawn wagons. In 1947 some trucks were built from pre-war and war-time stockpiles of spare parts.

In 1948 the new East German government nationalised the factory, which was renamed IFA-Framo. In 1949 the first new trucks began rolling off the production line. The new model, the V900 was externally similar to its predecessor, the V500/1, but featured the new 900cc three-cylinder, two-stroke motor designed for the 1939 DKW F9. This engine was also used in the new IFA F9 which was also unveiled at the Leipzig Motor Show the same year. The engines were built at the former BMW works at Eisenach.

Between 1948 and 1957 Framo improved and enhanced the V900, such as improving fittings and increasing the horsepower of the engine. Production facilities at Hainichen were however limited so some production was transferred to a newly rebuilt factory at Chemnitz. Production of the V900 ceased in 1961 after some 29,000 had been built.

Barkas 1000B

1956 saw the release of a substantially redesigned variant of the Framo V900. Goritz' patent narrow track chassis was employed to allow a low floor platform, while the 900cc two-stroke engine was lowered and moved forward. The cab was also moved to a forward-control, cab-over engine position. The new van was named the Barkas (spark). The company was also changed from IFA Framo to VEB Barkas and a new company logo was established.

In 1961 the old Framo V900 was retired and the Barkas received a new 1000cc two-stroke engine and was renamed the Barkas 1000B. The Barkas would remain in production until 1991 as East Germany's sole light commercial vehicle. The Eastern equivalent of the Volkswagen Transporter, the Barkas was a remarkably versatile vehicle that could carry extraordinary payloads - up to four tons, far more than its little engine would imply! It came in a wide variety of body styles - minibus, enclosed van, drop sided truck, tipping tray - the combinations were endless. In 1990, Volkswagen bought into VEB and began replacing the two-stroke engine with a 1.3 litre four-stroke engine. Sadly the attempt to modernise the Barkas, like that of the Trabant, ultimately failed and VEB Barkas closed its doors in 1991.

The late model Barkas with a four-cylinder, four-stroke Volkswagen engine.

Information about Framo and Barkas in English is very scarce but they have dedicated followings in Eastern Europe in much the same way as the Volkswagen Transporter has elsewhere. Here are some links-